How We Met
It was a long time coming
It all started when Alison Sharkey and Andrew Greeley dated in eighth grade—for a week.
“Guess that week wasn’t much fun for her,” says Andrew. “She dumped me with her friend on three-way calling a few hours before the eighth-grade dance,” an event that Andrew calls “the first wave of an entangled and twisted path that eventually led to us getting married.”
Despite the break-up, they were good friends. In ninth grade, Andrew stopped by Alison’s house in their hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey, to drop off a Christmas present. Alison wasn’t home, and her mom “gave me the pity look, like, ‘Oh, you seem like a great kid.’
“I said ‘It’s alright, Mrs. Sharkey. As long as she marries me, it’ll be ok.’ I always felt that if things worked out that we’d eventually end up together.”
They were friends throughout high school and senior year were voted Prom King and Queen, even though they were not each other’s date. “Maybe a lot of other people knew things before I did,” Alison says.
They went to different colleges, and both happened to study abroad in London one semester, where they lived around the corner from each other. “That Christmas after London we were sort of becoming a couple,” says Alison. “But I was going to Rome the following semester and didn’t want to go into it with things not working out.”
Once again they remained friends. After college, she moved to Colorado, while he lived in Connecticut. “We always stayed close,” she says. In 1996, she moved to Manhattan, and “I certainly had the hope that when I moved back that things would work out, but I still dragged my feet a bit.”
“It was pretty clear we’d make a go of it at that point,” recalls Andrew.
Andrew and his friends rented a beach house that summer, where one thing finally led to another. “It took a friend of mine from middle school who came to visit, listening to me talk about him. She said to me, ‘What are you doing? This is silly—this is what you want,’” says Alison. “It felt inevitable by the time it happened. It felt meant to be but the timing had never been right before.”
They got engaged in 1999, and married on November 17, 2000. Ten months later, Alison was three months pregnant and working on the 70th floor of the World Trade Center.
Andrew heard from Alison after the plane hit the first tower but when her tower fell, he had no idea where she was. At that moment he was on the phone with their close childhood friend, who said to Andrew: “We will inherently know if she is not with us.” Says Andrew, “It was very powerful. It was the strength I needed at that moment.”
About 15 minutes later, Alison called from Grand Central. “It was a miracle,” he says.
Drew was born in 2002; his middle name is for their friend who didn’t make it out that day. Kieran was born in 2004. A year later, they moved to Ridgefield. Alison is now chair of the Arts Council and worked on the committee that established our 9/11 memorial.
As for that eighth-grade incident, they can look back and laugh. “It was pretty painful, but I got over it eventually,” he says. “I’ve been paying for it every since,” says Alison. “The worst thing I did to someone was in middle school, and I end up marrying him.”